ICOM Student Experiences Working in Jamaica

Matt Cowell, a student in the ICOM program at Niagara College, completed his Co-op term during a Work Abroad Experience in Jamaica. Read some of the excerpts from his reflection to see how he has become even more “World Ready” as a result of his time abroad. Check out his blog for more details on his exciting journey


Completing a co-op abroad has been an experience which allowed me to utilize many aspects of my in class learning while at school and apply it to the working world while in a completely different culture and environment (Jamaica). I had the chance to apply my business skill set within an international company and really draw from the culture classes and exposure we experienced in class. Being able to make friends and have classmates from around the world has also assisted me as I had the chance to watch them experience our culture, talk with them on a daily basis and receive their input in class discussions and projects and then apply it to my situation.

My communication skills have strongly improved as I have learned to work in a new work environment where proper English is spoken sparingly. I have had to take the time to learn many phrases and statements to improve my understanding while also being patient with those I interact with when I had trouble understanding them.

Working abroad has certainly broadened my perspective on life as living in Jamaica is very different when compared to Canada and the norms I am familiar with. It has it made me realize how good we have it in Canada and the things we take for granted on a daily basis which are non-existent in the lives of many in Jamaica.

Much of the work I have completed since arriving has been completely independently with the manager placing an extreme amount of trust and faith in me. I have had instructions or tasks assigned by my Manager and left to complete set tasks without supervision unless assistance or questions needed answering. To begin, I felt very overwhelmed, didn’t know where to start and was worried about not completing things correctly or as expected. After working diligently the first week and speaking with my manager I had surpassed the amount of work which was expected of me in a much shorter time period. This experience has helped build my confidence and self-reliance in the workplace while assuring my initiative, independence and personality.

A portion of my work included dealing with local customs and agencies to fulfill the required needs of completing the Authorized Economic Operations documents within the company. This experience allowed me to apply what I had learned in my International Trade and Marketing classes and utilize it in another country. These skills were useful when dealing with persons involved as well as having knowledge of the requirements prior to exposure.

Since being in Jamaica I have spent time reviewing and updating my resume and sending it out to potential employers. Although I have a fairly well rounded resume and have developed a diverse skill set through the ICOM program, I have had several replies requesting interviews, all of whom seem particularly interested in my experience while abroad.

This was my first experience travelling outside of Canada or the US where I had independence in planning my travels, living arrangements and work habits. This has been a great experience which I will have to draw upon for my lifetime and has already encouraged me to explore and pursue other opportunities in the future.

This essay has been slightly edited for flow, clarity, and grammar.